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New Challenge for Press: U.S. Planning War on Iran?


By E&P Staff

Published: April 08, 2006 12:05 PM ET

NEW YORK The United States is planning a massive bombing campaign against Iran, including possible use of bunker-buster nuclear bombs to destroy a suspected--but far from proven--nuclear weapons facility, The New Yorker magazine will report in its April 17 issue.

The article is written by famed investigative journalist Seymour Hersh. He writes that, as in Iraq, a driving force in the scenario is "regime change."

One of the options under consideration involves the possible use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon, such as the B61-11, to insure the destruction of Iran's main centrifuge plant at Natanz, Hersh writes.

On Sunday, The Washington Post carried its own piece on Iran, affirming that the Bush administration "is studying options for military strikes against Iran as part of a broader strategy of coercive diplomacy to pressure Tehran to abandon its alleged nuclear development program, according to U.S. officials and independent analysts.

"No attack appears likely in the short term, and many specialists inside and outside the U.S. government harbor serious doubts about whether an armed response would be effective. But administration officials are preparing for it as a possible option."

Bush and others in the White House have come to view Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a potential Adolf Hitler, Hersh reveals in The New Yorker.

The Hersh article opens: "The Bush Administration, while publicly advocating diplomacy in order to stop Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon, has increased clandestine activities inside Iran and intensified planning for a possible major air attack.

"Current and former American military and intelligence officials said that Air Force planning groups are drawing up lists of targets, and teams of American combat troops have been ordered into Iran, under cover, to collect targeting data and to establish contact with anti-government ethnic-minority groups. The officials say that President Bush is determined to deny the Iranian regime the opportunity to begin a pilot program, planned for this spring, to enrich uranium."

A senior unnamed Pentagon adviser is quoted in the article as saying that "this White House believes that the only way to solve the problem is to change the power structure in Iran, and that means war." The former intelligence officials depicts planning as "enormous," "hectic" and "operational."

Hersh writes: "A government consultant with close ties to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon said that Bush was 'absolutely convinced that Iran is going to get the bomb' if it is not stopped. He said that the President believes that he must do 'what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do,' and 'that saving Iran is going to be his legacy.'

"One former defense official, who still deals with sensitive issues for the Bush Administration, told me that the military planning was premised on a belief that 'a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government.'"

But the former senior intelligence official said the attention given to the nuclear option has created serious misgivings inside the military, and some officers have talked about resigning. "There are very strong sentiments within the military against brandishing nuclear weapons against other countries," Hersh quotes the Pentagon adviser.

The adviser warned that bombing Iran could provoke "a chain reaction" of attacks on American facilities and citizens throughout the world and might also reignite Hezbollah:
"If we go, the southern half of Iraq will light up like a candle."

A senior Pentagon adviser on the war on terror told Hersh: “This White House believes that the only way to solve the problem is to change the power structure in Iran, and that means war.” The danger, he said, was that “it also reinforces the belief inside Iran that the only way to defend the country is to have a nuclear capability.”